It’s not hard to understand why some higher ed institutions are hesitant about instituting an online curriculum. After all, there is a certain mystique about distance education, despite the fact it seemingly has been around for ages. But if you’re keeping score of how well learners and educators interact and collaborate online, and if you’re surprised by the camaraderie that seems to be growing by leaps and bounds, you shouldn’t be. Siemens (2008) is so bullish on this huge shift in distance education that he intimates we’re experiencing what amounts to a seismic shift in distance education programs over the Internet – and that the sky is the limit as to where this whole thing is headed.
As a longtime instructor engaging students in an online community, I couldn’t be happier with what George Siemens and others are saying about the benefits of distance education. True, the absence of face-to-face communication is more psychological, in my view, than anything else. But the opportunity to evaluate other peoples’ work online as well as a peer review of your own, is just something that doesn’t happen in a traditional classroom setting, not to mention having access to the classroom 24/7. And Seimens (2008) believes our best days are still ahead of us in distance education.
I don’t know about what’s just beyond the distance education horizon. But I am fairly confident that whatever it is, it’s likely to be good. Distributed learning in higher education, according to some of the experts, is getting some astronomical marks these days and things apparently can only continue to go up. Distance education, by no means, is a perfect electronic world. But as a student, if you’re in the market for establishing closer ties with fellow students or instructors, or making the best out of networking – one of the real strong suits of distance education – the opportunity online to do so couldn’t be more ripe. Granted, there are those among us online who would rather take a low-profile approach to doing anything involving the Internet. But the myriad ways of assessment online for class assignments are about as flexible in a positive sense, and no doubt a boost for all of education. Educators like myself have been clamoring for years for innovative but effective ways to assess student work, mainly in traditional class settings. Distance education apparently has come up with the answer, which seems to lie in online collaboration that puts everybody on equal footing and the like. As an online instructor and doctoral student, somehow I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Laureate Education, Inc. (2008) (Executive Producer). The future of distance education [program Video]. Available from